Audi investigates the use of time in the robot car

Audi investigates the use of time in the robot car
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In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Labor and Organization (IAO), Audi is trying to find out how the drivers mutated to the passenger in a self-driving car use their time. The Fraunhofer experts for man-machine interaction have examined in a special driving simulator, among other things, how the interior can be turned into a perfect workplace. The findings help the car manufacturer to offer every user his personally optimized interior in the car.
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

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“When cars no longer have steering wheels, individual mobility can be redefined. In the future, people will be able to surf the internet, play with their children, or even concentrate on working while on the move from A to B, “says Melanie Goldmann, Head of Cultural and Trend Communication at Audi. “Together with the Fraunhofer experts, we want to find out what is important in order to make the most of their time in the self-driving car.”

For the laboratory experiment at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Audi used a purpose-built driving simulator that simulates automated driving – with variable interior and without a steering wheel. Large-scale projections give the impression of a night-time city tour. On displays, the scientists can introduce digital interfering stimuli, the windows can be dimmed and light color as well as the background noise can change.

The focus of the laboratory experiment was on young test persons, who were considered open-minded with respect to self-driving cars. In the experiment, the 30 probands completed different concentration tasks, comparable to a working situation in the self-propelled car. Their brain waves (EEG) were measured as well as reaction times, error rates and subjective impressions.


The results of the EEG measurement were clear: the human brain is less stressed in an interior without disturbing influences. When the window panes were dimmed, the light settings optimized and digital messages were suppressed, tasks were solved better and faster. The test persons acknowledged they were less distracted. On the other hand, the “realistic” driving situation in the robot car strained the brain more: Here the participants saw for example commercials, got information from social networks and did not benefit from pleasantly designed light settings or darkened windows.

The project is based on the assumption that an intelligent human-machine interface learns and adapts to individual preferences of users. This gives drivers / passengers the control over their time.

In a first step, the project team accompanied people in Hamburg, San Francisco and Tokyo. The focus was on two aspects: How is infotainment used today in the car? And what would people like to do in their free time in the car of the future? The results were then discussed with various experts, including psychologists, anthropologists as well as urban and mobility planners.

In a second step, the researchers defined three “time modes” for activities that are conceivable in a self-running car: quality time, productive time and time for recovery. In the so-called “Quality Time”, people spend their time actively with their children or speak to family and friends on the phone. In “Productive Time” they typically work. In the “Downtime” they read relaxedly, surf the Internet or watch a movie.

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